The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

Black authors (black history month)

| February 3, 2017

So, it being February and all, and how social media “friend of a friend” stuff works, someone asked folks what their favorite book by a black author was. So, I answered “Showdown”, by Larry Elder. (I know, a political book? From me? Total surprise, right.). But then I got to thinking, this book is 15 years old at this point. Why don’t I have anything more recent than that? Well:

  1. Wargame and RPG books often only have authors’ names – no pictures or bios. So, for example, I only know that Jerry Grayson is black because they had his head shot next to his bio on the 7th Sea RPG Kickstarter. That stuff is never in the end product.

  2. I’ve been reading stuff mostly digitally for about 10 years. So, unless it’s an author I’ve read in paper, and thus have seen on a book jacket, I have no idea. For example, I’m currently reading Hammer’s Slammers by David Drake, and I have no idea what his skin pigmentation is.

So, anyway, assuming that (2) is becoming more commonplace, I have to ask – does it matter? I mean, if you get a book, that’s just text, aren’t we closer to (and let me borrow a phrase here), judging people not on the color of their skin, but rather on the quality of their arguments (or fiction, or research, or writing; depending on what all you’re reading)? On the flip side, if you don’t know the author’s background, then it’s harder to attempt to consider the source when compensating for prejudices and weighing the validity of arguments. I tend to lean towards the former idea (that is, that the ideas are best considered in isolation, to try and separate yourself from any possible prejudices), but I know that others often feel differently.

Anyone else have an opinion on the topic?